REDMOND, OR -- A local power company is providing the research field for a Texas drone company hoping to prevent wildfires. Brent ten Pas, with Central Electric Co-Op, says they’re working with Brains 4 Drones to reduce the cost of aerial power line inspections. Brains 4 Drones is working "to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology for off-the-shelf drones that can help identify damaged energy infrastructure and assess vegetation status," according to ten Pas.
Numerous wildfires have been sparked by damaged transmission lines. While hiring a commercial drone crew is expensive, ten Pas says aerial inspections are key to finding damage that can spark a fire, "You want to try and inspect every inch of your power lines, specifically as a top priority in high-risk wildfire areas. And, frankly, there are things that a drone can capture that may not necessarily be seen by the naked eye doing visual inspections." Research conducted by Brains 4 Drones aims to prove utilities could retro-fit consumer-grade drones with their AI.
Redmond-based CEC and Consumers Power in Philomath, outside Corvallis, are the only utilities in the nation to offer up a research field. Ten Pas tells KBND News the two regions offer very different terrain, "So it allowed them really a two-for-one punch because with our service territories being somewhat close. They can come out, visually inspect lines with their drones, gather data."
Eventually, CEC hopes field crews will carry drones in their trucks. "They could send it up over a stretch of line that may be difficult to get to or to visually inspect," says ten Pas.
Brains 4 Drones hopes to demonstrate their research results by fall.